HELLO Hello hello ehoh ehoh…

Uh, yeah, still here, despite evidence to the contrary.

Got caught up pretty heavily in estate stuff for my mom April through July, just digging myself out. As part of going through my mom’s stuff, I found a local chapter of FreeCycle that’s pretty cool. It’s a forum for people with stuff to give away to find people that can use it. Been on the list for a couple months now, and it’s surprisingly active. Goodwill can be picky about what it will accept — I ended up staging a couple boxes with the best stuff on top so it was more appealing.

But it’s getting done. Am looking forward to having it wrapped up by the end of the year. Here’s hoping…

2006 Year-End Wrap-Up

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This is the holiday letter I printed and mailed out to a few people at the last minute, with added links.

2006 was dominated by my music program. Last December, I signed up for a Masters Certificate program in Theory and Harmony, offered on-line by Berklee College of Music in Boston. The eight-course program filled in the music basics I missed when I dropped my decades-ago music-major program at CSU Chico.

Man, what a ride… I don’t know what attending classes formally at Berklee would have been like, but the challenge of getting through a year of never-ending weekly assignments was tough (see the previous blog post for examples). It was tremendously exciting to finally grok how harmony works, and to get introduced to new artists and styles. Am pretty stoked at the moment- the last 3-min song for the Groove Writing final went up two days ago, and it looks like I’m getting A’s in it and Arranging. Woo hoo!

I also spent several months taken bass guitar lessons in San Francisco, and joined a rehearsal rock band late summer. We named ourselves Sweatbox and played a couple gigs in SF, including the Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley. Pretty fun.

Going forward, I’m working with a singer (Jen Flaa) in San Rafael to start another band Urban Fiction. UF is mostly on hold while getting through the last couple classes, plus the holidays, plus Patricia’s move, but we’ve started again in January with a first-round recording session at my loft. I’m also looking for composing/arranging gigs for local theater and arts groups, and may take more classes through the CSU SF multi-media program. There’s also an interesting set of seminars at Blue Bear in SF around stage performance with an acting approach.

The year was also filled with managing Kay’s (my mom’s) trust. The first house sold in April, largely to cover estate taxes, with a second property transfer to me in early November, requiring a mortgage and all the usual real estate fooferaw. That put me in the landlord business, another new thing, though my family has been doing this for decades. It doesn’t seem much different from managing the trust.

Patricia, my girlfriend, also had a busy year. She spent several months starting late August interviewing for and accepting a position in San Diego as Chief Learning Officer for “the world’s largest CEO membership organization” Vistage International. She started 11/15, with her household stuff catching up with her on 12/15 at a cute little condo overlooking the water in Solana Beach. I’ve spent two weeks in San Diego (where I’m writing this) helping her get moved in and set up. It’s one of those situations involving excitement, reward, frustration, weariness, and cool stuff, all more-or-less simultaneously.

We’re working to figure out how to do a long-distance relationship between SF and SD. My best her-door/my-door time has been 3 1/2 hours, which seems doable. I bought a laptop in part to be productive while traveling, which has worked out great so far. Even have a little 2-octave MIDI keyboard that helped me finish classwork over the last couple weeks.

For smaller-scale things… Patricia and I did several bike trips across the GG Bridge- Tiburon and Angel Island, the Marin Headlands, and downtown Mill Valley for lunch at The Depot. She and I lead our respective classes in the Golden Gate Porsche Club regional autocross race series, in my Boxster, for the first half of the season. We planted trees with Friends of the Urban Forest in SF early in the year

I’m still serving on the HOA Board of Directors for my building, which continues to be a learning experience re different personalities and styles, some rather challenging. Have continued a small-but-regular Zen sitting practice, and have been paying attention to the book The Artists Way, which I’ve talked to some people about. No health problems to speak of, though calories have gotten bigger than they used to be.

I hope everyone has had a great year, and that the New Year is bringing more good stuff. IMG_0055

Finishing up the scholastic year

Having been telling people in a low-key way that I’m taking classes, spending this year being a student, and they mostly haven’t been getting it. Dunno whether it’s the mismatch between “40-something male” and “school,” or that nobody believes web-based learning could be serious. Finally got a few people to notice a couple weeks ago with “sorry, can’t make it, I have to finish midterms.” “Oh? I didn’t know you were taking classes.” Funny how language and presentation makes such a difference.

The Arranging mid-term project came out pretty OK, a Brazilian version of a Tina Turner song I Want You Near Me; my band Sweatbox played it earlier this year. Even the score looks kinda cool.

The Style Writing material has been fun, though mostly not very showy. The first half covered Brazilian and Afro Cuban forms and combinations, with the second half moving into soul, Motown, and funk. Am now startled I’ve never paid attention to James Brown, didn’t have a single track of his in my collection.

Barking Cats on MySpace

Sweatbox logo

Long time no blogging, and all that. Lots of time spent on music over the last couple months, both classwork and band work. My Blue Bear band Sweatbox is coming up for its first gig next week- you can see details on the Sweatbox myspace page.

I also switched my personal myspace page over to a band-format page. Didn’t know there was a difference when I created the previous one. The skins are intentionally similar here and there, though applying stylesheets after the fact is questionable.

Nike Missile Sites

Bay Area Nike Missile Sites

They’re everywhere.

I had my first contact with a Nike missile site a few years ago, riding in the Marin Headlands. Thought it was interesting and novel.

We had another contact this last weekend on Angel Island, where there’s a launch and control site pair, which got me doing research. There are five launch/control site pairs (10 sites total) within San Francisco, Angel Island, and the Marin Headlands. On my first ride up Mt Sutro a few months ago, I wandered to the top of the mountain, found an empty-ish site with fresh landscaping, later found vague text about it being a military radar site. Turns out it was SF-89C, the radar control site for launch site SF-89L in the Presidio, just a few blocks from Patricia’s place.

Another launch site is at Fort Funston, controlled from a site on San Bruno Mt, where I was riding last week. I spent time staring at the map before the ride, trying to figure out what the site was, since it seemed anomalous.

Another standard ride up to Hawk Hill crests at another control site, paired to a launch site at Fort Cronkhite. There are actually two launch sites in this Marin Headlands valley, on each side of the lagoon. I ride by the southern one.

I think I care partly because they’re way more common than I thought, partly because the original Nike Atlas missiles were later upgraded to the Nike Hercules, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. I’m startled by the realization that we potentially (probably) had nuclear warheads and short-range missiles stationed so close to major metropolitan areas.

And that I can now walk up to and stand on the launch bay doors of multiple launch sites short rides away.

SF Golden Gate Daily Tide Chart

China Beach starfish

Sometimes it’s small things that make one happy.

I have a slowly-building interest in meteorological happenings around SF- rain, wind, tides. I also have a Treo 650 with a browser. Seems like a great match, right? You’re out on your bike, end up at Ocean Beach, and you think, wow, lots of beach showing, and you wonder, how low is the tide?

At least, I do, but there’s some evidence that I may be in the minority on this one.

So you pull the Treo out of your jersey pocket, looking for an instant-info hit, tap the NOAA tide predictions web page, and… 15 minutes and two reboots later, you get the answer. Not exactly instant. More of a low thud at that point.

So I figured out the NOAA URL formats last night, found some JavaScript, and, voila… tidal gratification, attached to ‘T’ on the Treo.

Pretty fun, even if not that complex. Instant info on whether the starfish will be showing at Baker Beach, if China Beach is accessible from Baker, whether the Sausalito houseboats will be floating or mired in mud when we ride by, whether Mill Valley will be sandbagging the roads.

Nerding out on Bill Frisell

Surprisingly cool- jazz guitar, some country/bluegrass, some world music. Nothing threatening or overly challenging, but none of the typical sappiness or cop-out resolutions of smooth jazz. Am shuffling through East/West, Good Dog, Happy Man, and The Intercontinentals at the moment.

Links to Amazon or iTunes (the iTunes link may not work on Windows).

New caffeine delivery tools

Charles and Lee 04

Charles came up last night for dinner and general hanging-out. We spent a little time on my new kitchen acquisitions- a Rancilio Silvia espresso maker and associated Rocky grinder (photos here). I think this is a current icon of the techno-yuppie set- the combination is not cheap ($700 for the pair), there are numerous instructions around for hacking Silvia with excruciatingly accurate temperature controllers, it delivers addictively good cappuccino, and there’s plenty of room for nerding out at even higher levels.

Charles brought up another techno-yuppie item, a Nikon D100 digital SLR. I love the feel of an SLR, even though it took me a minute to remember how to manually zoom (“where’s the zoom buttons?”). But I’m really not looking forward to learning yet another interface, and retooling for bigger image files. Access to RAW files is attractive, though; the ability to change exposure and white balance in Photoshop, versus in real-time on the camera, is WAY cool. Time-consuming, but cool.

At Esalen for Patricia’s birthday

Patricia and I drove down to Esalen on the Big Sur coast for her birthday- left Friday, back Sunday evening. It was a good trip, including the Nepenthe gift shop (am three for three in finding interesting clothing there, plus a birthday gift for Patricia).

We just hung out for the weekend eating, sleeping, and soaking, no seminars. Met Wes Niskar (Scoop), teaching on Zen for Cynics, and Ayo from LA, doing a weekend on African percussion, with a side hobby of sitting through timeshare sales pitches for sport and profit.

Esalen is interesting- larger than I thought, more of a community (150 guests plus a reported 150 staff and seminar leaders), less new-age Californian. It doesn’t stand out as it used to; much of its sensibility has been absorbed into the general population. It feels like a summer camp for adults- a mix of 20-somethings working there, and older yuppies who can afford the seminar fees and like the subject matter.

The mineral baths are a much bigger deal than I realized. They have the coolest tub house I’ve seen- luscious smooth concrete construction, tasteful arches and shapes, infinity pools overlooking the ocean, tile floors heated by spring water. I’m not much for soaking, but this was cool.

Esalen has an interesting history, starting as Slates Hot Springs, their geographical name, though it looks like they have changes ahead. They have a named massage style (which everyone else in the world probably already knows). I found it much more stretchy and connecting than other massages I’ve had.

And… googling on another aspect of Esalen, apparently the #1 pickup line in the old tubs was “I really love your energy.”

The view down the coast from Nepenthe’s deck (or “view”, given all the coastal fog recently):

Signum sine tinnitu

The title is the name of Guy Kawasaki’s blog, which roughly translates as “sign(s) without sound”; I’m thinking he’s walking in the shadow of Macbeth. I was initially drawn by his tagline: Blogger. n. Someone with nothing to say writing for someone with nothing to do. Then I got caught by The 120 Day Wonder: How to Evangelize a Blog.

This page is relevant to conversations I’ve had with Patricia lately- what’s the purpose of blogging? I’m mostly having fun; for her, it would be more business-oriented.

I landed on Guy’s blog from Kare Anderson’s Say It Better newsletter, a lightweight monthly email with business behavior and interaction tidbits that keep me fluent with business jargon.

Guy’s pages lead to Rajesh Setty’s site http://www.lifebeyondcode.com/, and his eBook on personal branding. It’s also lightweight, maybe a couple dozen pages of real content, but has ideas, references, and his own personal branding story.

My own personal brand, or lack thereof, has completely not worked in San Francisco. It’s been fascinating to watch people’s eyes instantly glaze over when I describe myself as an engineering manager (or Director, or whatever). I sorta think of Barking Cats as a brand, but it’s really more a channel. This year off, in one sense, is a rebranding exercise for me, both coming up with an updated brand and identity, and learning how to present it clearly.

(For the record, this entry took about an hour.)